As we come into a new season of Eurovision where broadcasters either internally select their representative Eurovision songs or host national finals where the public can help choose, we’ve decided to open the history books and take a look at one of the most controversial national finals in the history of the Eurovision Song Contest – Serbia and Montenegro’s 'Evropesma'.
For those unaware, Serbia and Montenegro were one nation until their separation in 2006.
Winner: Željko Joksimović – 'Lane moje'
In February 2004, the first edition of Evropesma was held in Belgrade, Serbia.
Twenty-four songs took part in the debut edition of the competition, including four internally selected by Montenegrin broadcaster RTCG, four selected through the semi-final Beovizija by Serbian broadcaster RTS, and sixteen selected by joint union broadcaster UJRT. Despite this, Evropesma featured nineteen Serbian performers and only five Montenegrin performers in the final show.
Prior to the broadcast of the show, Montenegrin broadcaster RTCG argued that televoting should only account for a part of the final vote, as fairly anonymous representatives from Montenegro would not stand a good chance against the biggest music stars in the country taking part on behalf of Serbian broadcaster RTS. As such, the show featured four jurors appointed by RTCG, four jurors appointed by RTS, and the televoting acting as a ninth jury member.
During the voting for Evropesma 2004, the Serbian jury members failed to give any points to any of the songs representing Montenegro at the competition, and the Montenegrin jury members failed to give any points to the winner and runner-up of the Serbian semi-final 'Beovizija'.
Željko Joksimović’s ‘Lane moje’ went on to represent Serbia and Montenegro at the Eurovision Song Contest in Istanbul in 2004, and came second in the grand final, giving the country an automatic qualification to the grand final the next year.
Winner: No Name – 'Zauvijek moja'
In March 2005, the second edition of Evropesma was held in Podgorica, Montenegro.
24 songs were originally scheduled to take part in the competition, with ten entries selected through the semi-final Montevizija by Montenegrin broadcaster RTCG and 14 entries selected through the semi-final Beovizija by Serbian broadcaster RTS. Serbian band Luna was originally intended to perform the song ‘Sentimientos’, but withdrew from the competition in boycott just before the contest was due to begin.
Before the competition had even begun, Montenegrin broadcaster RTCG made claims that their Serbian counterpart RTS was favouring the winner and runner up of their semifinal Beovizija, Ogi Radivojević’s ‘Hajde Cico’ and Jelena Tomašević’s ‘Jutro’. Željko Joksimović, winner of Evropesma 2004 and songwriter of ‘Jutro’, had even prematurely arranged a winning party of singer Jelena before the show.
Disputes were also made between the two broadcasters as RTCG claimed that RTS had been breaching agreed upon rules between the two sides that the qualifiers would not be actively promoted on broadcast airwaves in the lead up to the Evropesma final.
In retaliation, RTCG jurors voted by awarding very few points to the Serbian entries in the competition, and throwing all of their support behind No Name’s ‘Zauvijek moja’ with the maximum number of points available.
Following the end of the competition, allegations were made that the televoting, which had a cost in Serbia, had been made free of charge in Montenegro. These allegations were proven false.
Before allowing ‘Zauvijek moja’ to be confirmed as the representative entry for Serbia and Montenegro, the European Broadcasting Union launched an investigation into a number of formal complaints that had been lodged against the entry, including allegations of plagiarism. Following prolonged deliberation, the entry was given the go-ahead.
No Name’s ‘Zauvijek moja’ went on to represent Serbia and Montenegro at the Eurovision Song Contest in Kyiv in 2005, and came seventh in the grand final, giving the country an automatic qualification to the Grand FInal l the following year.
Winner: No Name – 'Moja ljubavi' (disputed)
In March 2006, the third edition of Evropesma was held in Belgrade, Serbia.
Evropesma 2006 could hold the title of the most controversial edition of a national final in the history of the entire Eurovision Song Contest.
24 songs took part in the third edition of Evropesma, with twelve entries selected through Montevizija and another twelve entries selected through Beovizija.
The voting methods used by the RTCG appointed jurors and the RTS appointed jurors was the same as in the previous years, with Montenegrin jurors refusing to give points to the winner and runner-up of Beovizija (Flamingosi’s ‘Ludi letnji ples’ and Ana Nikolić’s ‘Romale romali’ respectively) and throwing their full support and maximum points behind No Name’s ‘Moja ljubavi’ for the second year running.
The total of eight points given to No Name by RTS appointed Serbian jurors was enough to give them the win, despite coming third in the televote behind the Beovizija favourites. During the time in which the votes were read out by the jurors, the heavily Serbian-based audience cheered for Serbian jurors when they came on stage, and jeered when No Name received points.
When the leaderboard was recapped after each juror announced their points, it became increasingly difficult for the hosts to be heard over the jeers of the audience. Members of the audience began leaving as the voting went on as it became increasingly obvious that their favourites didn’t stand a chance against the bloc voting of the Montenegrin jurors.
Upon the announcement on stage of No Name as the winners of the show, the vast majority of the audience stood up and began attempting to leave immediately. When No Name came out to receive their award, the audience began jeering and throwing bottles at the stage as the hosts were unable to maintain control of the show.
No Name left the stage without performing their song, leading to an extended period of time with confused cameramen only able to continue pointing their cameras at the furious audience with no idea what to do, before the show’s organisers could only bring out second-placed Flamingosi in an attempt to placate the audience.
After the show had finished, while the voting methods used by the jurors at the competition was not found to be irregular, joint public broadcaster UJRT released a statement that said the voting of the jurors violated the merits of the competition, and refused to accept No Name’s victory at Evropesma.
Following the chaotic national final, both broadcasters sought a resolution. The Director General of the Serbian broadcaster RTS, who was also the head of the joint broadcaster UJRT, wrote a letter to the Director General of RTCG suggesting that a new contest be held, this time featuring the five songs from Beovizija and Montevizija with the most points, with the winner to be selected solely by televoting.
At the same time, Montenegrin broadcaster RTCG had contacted the European Broadcasting Union requesting that they intervene and accept the results of Evropesma as it had been held.
The EBU responded two days before the submission deadline for the national entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, suggesting that broadcasters RTS and RTCG find a solution on their own.
No resolution was ever found, and Serbia and Montenegro’s joint broadcaster, UJRT, withdrew from the contest on the day submissions were due. Due to UJRT still broadcasting the Eurovision semifinal and final, viewers were still able to vote for their favourite entries, but only those in Serbia.
No Name’s ‘Moja ljubavi’ never went to Eurovision in Athens in 2006, and it’s status as the winner of Evropesma 2006 still remains disputed.
On May 21st 20006, just one day after the Eurovision Grand Final, Montenegrins went to the polls to vote on their indepdence from Serbia. Needing 55% in the affirmative, the result was 55.5% and Montenegro went on to become its own state in early June of that year.